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Obama decries right-to-work proposal during trip to Michigan


REDFORD, MICH. – President Barack Obama traveled Monday to Michigan to tout a new investment in domestic auto jobs, while using the opportunity to assail the state's Republican lawmakers for pursuing "right to work" legislation.

With three weeks to go to avoid the fiscal cliff, President Barack Obama will travel to a Detroit auto plan and attempt to sell his plan to raise taxes on the top two percent of Americans.

Obama renewed his offensive to pressure Republicans into extending middle class tax cuts, calling on Congress to pass legislation making the Bush-era tax rates for those making below $250,000 permanent.

But this trip to the Detroit-area came with some extra baggage in the form of a state-wide union battle over a right-to-work law that Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder (R) has pledged to sign. The president addressed the union controversy towards the middle of his remarks:

"We should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler to keep investing in American workers," Obama said, "what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions."

Related: Lawmakers implore Michigan gov. to halt or delay 'right to work' law

The audience responded enthusiastically as  the president continued: "These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."

While Snyder did not join the president for his event at the Daimler-owned Detroit Diesel Corporation, the governor did greet Obama on the tarmac along with some of  the Democratic members of  Michigan’s congressional delegation.

Snyder had a meeting with many members of the Michigan delegation earlier today to discuss the legislation, which would make mandatory payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment illegal. On the flight to Michigan, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney noted that the president’s opposition to right-to-work laws was “well known” and the optics of this were brought even more into focus by the president being accompanied on his tour of the engine plant by the UAW NW Local 163 Detroit Diesel Engine Unit Shop Chairperson Mark Gibson, and multiple people in the crowd sporting UAW stickers. Currently, 23 states and Guam have some type of right-to-work legislation on the books.

Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks on the economy and fiscal cliff negotiations after touring the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant in Redford, Michigan, December 10, 2012.

But while the president was on the tour of the Redford engine plant, the clock continued to tick towards the end of the year and the so-called fiscal cliff. Obama again insisted that tax rates on the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to go up,

"What you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for middle-class families," he said. "We make some tough spending cuts on things that we don't need, and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate. And that's a principle I won't compromise on."

He didn’t mention his meeting over the weekend with House Speaker John Boehner, choosing instead to focus the blame on Congress if taxes go up for everyone at the end of the year.

"If Congress doesn't act soon -- meaning in the next few weeks -- starting on Jan. 1, everybody's going to see their income taxes go up. It's true,” the president said.  The audience loudly booed and the president responded, “You all don't like that.”